Catalina Island Fishing

Catalina Island offers the opportunity to catch a variety of popular gamefish like this quality grade white sea bass.

The lyrics to the decades old Four Preps song proudly proclaim, “Twenty-six miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is the place for me!” And most of the saltwater anglers who have ever fished there heartily agree. The fact is, even though it is located just under 30 miles off the coast of one of America’s largest metropolitan regions, it has retained a charm and allure for visitors that has lasted nearly a century. In addition to the quaint town of Avalon on its lee side, the entire island is surrounded by numerous coves, grottos and beaches that provide a myriad of great angling opportunities.

One of the first to discover and publicize this unique locale was noted author and big game fisherman, Zane Grey, who also served as President of the exclusive Tuna Club of Avalon for several years. Since those days in the early 20th century, the waters around the island have become a Mecca for anglers aboard party boats operating out of landings on the mainland, sportfishing charter craft and a bevy of privately owned vessels.

The occasional small, sandy beaches around Catalina’s coastline also offer excellent onshore and inshore fishing venues that also provide exceptional access for small kayaks and inflatables. It is not unusual for anglers fishing in this manner to match some of the catches made by sport boats that traveled several hours to reach the island.

While all of the productive fishing spots around Catalina Island are far too numerous to list individually, the areas can be specifically targeted with the use of this GPS Waypoint link, which relates pertinent data on each of these locations.

The seasonal arrival of bait schools, from squid to sardines, anchovies and mackerel, helps to fuel epic attacks by popular gamesters like big white sea bass, yellowtail, Pacific bonito, barracuda and calico bass. Some yearly cycles also bring in tuna, marlin and broadbill swordfish. 

If you happen to find a large patch of sand along the bottom, try dropping down a live bait on a Carolina rig; you just might end up catching one of Catalina’s hefty California halibut. Much deeper rocky pinnacles and crevices can be fished with squid on a dropper loop rig for a shot at a fat lingcod or other tasty rockfish. When it comes to fishing, Catalina has something for just about every angler.

There are two companies that provide shuttle service to Catalina from mainland ports; the Catalina Express and the Catalina Flyer. The Flyer departs from the Balboa Pavilion in Newport Beach and offers transportation to and from the island twice daily. On the other hand, the Express is a bit more economical, but is also more limited in the ports and departures offered.

The most common way to fish Catalina by anglers who do not have access to a private cruiser is aboard one of the party boats that work out of southern California. A few of the most prominent are 22nd Street Landing, Pierpoint Landing, Newport Landing, Davey's Locker and Long Beach Sportfishing.

If you like, you can take one of the shuttles across the channel and then arrange for a boat to fish from after you arrive in Avalon. One of the most popular local operations is Afishinados Charters. There is even an opportunity for you to be your own captain, and fish the local waters from one of the many vessels available a Joe’s Rent-A-Boat on the green Pleasure Pier in the center of town.

But no matter how you plan to get there Catalina Island offers its own distinct style of angling opportunities; some of the very finest on the west coast.